It’s been quiet few months for John O’Hara. A knee injury sustained during a rehearsal of School of Rock meant O’Hara was undergoing knee surgery instead of taking to the stage as Ned Schneebly for the Australian premiere opening night.

“It’s been a lot to cope with. It’s taught me patience and perseverance,” said O’Hara.

Following an intensive physiotherapy program, and a lot of hard work, O’Hara is now ahead of his scheduled recovery and returned to rehearsals for School of Rock this week. O’Hara plans to take to the stage for selected performances at Her Majesty’s Theatre before the end of the Melbourne season next month. O’Hara will then join the cast as they tour China before returning to Australia for the seasons in Brisbane Sydney.

Thankfully, the role of Ned Schneebly doesn’t require any real choreography and it allows O’Hara to return to the show in a modified way.

“I won’t be running or jumping off couches any time soon!” O’Hara laughed, adding, “If I was doing a different show, Priscilla or Wicked or something, I definitely wouldn’t be able to be back as soon as I am.”

He knows it’s going to be a very special moment when he finally gets on stage.

“It’s been very difficult. It’s been heartbreaking. But finally I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

What has helped John O’Hara through this difficult time has been the support of those around him.

“The company has been wonderfully supportive – the producers and cast and everyone.”

O’Hara has performed once already with his fellow School of Rock cast mates – in Carols By Candlelight at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl on Christmas Eve.

“The company said, ‘You have to do the Carols!’ It was beautiful. It was very, very special.”

John O'Hara VAL

However, before School of Rock, John O’Hara is performing at Melbourne’s Chapel Off Chapel for just two performances of his cabaret show #VAL, which had its world premiere in Perth last year.

O’Hara describes #VAL as “a celebration of the relationship that queer kids have with their mums.”

He explained that mothers are not always biological ones and sometimes people choose their own families.

“That’s a really important thing in the queer community,” said O’Hara.

“We explore what the term mother means on a broad scale to the queer community, but also to the wider community. This came about because I had always thought that the relationships mothers have with their queer children is a different one, and a special one, and different to the relationship they may have with their heterosexual kid … but a mother’s love is like no other love, and it knows no bounds and no discrimination, and so mothers are often more accepting of that stuff, and can see that it’s not something that defines the child necessarily.”

John O’Hara said his own Mum has always been an advocate, not only for her own son, but for his community.

“I decided I’d like to do a piece to really highlight those relationships and so was born #VAL. My mum’s name is Val and so the show was called Val – and so it was a homage to her, but it’s not about her, it’s about mothers on a broader scale. I definitely have my own autobiographical moments in the show, but it’s not a show about my mum.”

#VAL is set to eclectic mix of what O’Hara refers to as “an unashamedly camp, pop soundtrack” with songs by artists such as Lady Gaga, Sam Smith, George Michael and Bette Midler. It’s all accompanied by an acoustic guitar.

“It’s very funny and very camp and very silly. It’s a celebration of love and joy in all its form. You’ll leave laughing and humming, but you’ll definitely have a little tear at some moment. It’s lots and lots of fun – and it’s me!”

John O’Hara is performing #VAL at Chapel Off Chapel on Monday 21st and Tuesday 22nd January.

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